Soccer tournament to raise funds for fields in Africa

May 1, 2012

By Rose Marie Gai

Cliff McCrath is surrounded by soccer players in Ethiopia, Africa, in 2009. Contributed

On a 2009 trip to Africa, longtime local soccer coach Cliff McCrath was inspired to improve the lives of teenagers there. Founder of the nonprofit organization Soccer Saves, McCrath partnered with Save the Children in order to visit there.

Fast-forward to today. The Bellevue-based Soccer Saves is hosting a 3 v 3 soccer tournament June 3 at the Preston Park Athletic fields. All funds generated will go directly to build a soccer field and a community- center clubhouse for disadvantaged youths near Cape Town, South Africa.

The top four teams in each age bracket will advance to the 3 v 3 Challenge National Tournament, to be held in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Florida from Aug. 3-5.

The Soccer Saves 3 v 3 tournament is the only qualifying tournament in the Pacific Northwest for the 3 v 3 Challenge National Tournament.

In addition, the winning team in each age bracket will receive a 90-minute training session with McCrath, a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.

The tournament is open to all girls and boys from the U-10 through U-19 (U means “under”) groups regardless of skill level.

Unlike traditional soccer, 3 v 3 (3 versus 3) teams may have only three players at a time on the field; 3 v 3 is played without a goalie. The game is played on a field that is one-fourth the size of a regular soccer field.

Because of that, 3 v 3 is a much faster-paced game with higher scoring.

“You will want more than three players on your team because you are going to get tired,” advised Shelli Dean, executive director for Soccer Saves.

Subs are an important part of a 3 v 3 team strategy.

Get involved

Soccer Saves 3 v 3 Soccer Tournament

  • Choose one person to register your team.
  • Go to
  • $150 per team, six players maximum (Each player gets a tournament T-shirt.)
  • Registration closes May 15.

An added draw to the tournament is that members of the Seattle Sounders FC soccer team will be present. Ruffneck Scarves has designed a soccer scarf specifically for Soccer Saves and the scarves will be available for purchase at the tournament. Ruffneck Scarves, based in Seattle, makes scarves for the Sounders and teams throughout the U.S.

When McCrath joined Save the Children on the trip to Africa, he said he wanted to see if he could combine soccer with providing information about healthy lifestyle choices. McCrath said he was surprised at the “atrocious nature of the fields” he saw in Ethiopia where the children were playing soccer.

“There were ruts, glass, broken cans and stones. It was dirty and dusty and the kids were playing in bare feet,” he said in a recent phone interview.

On the same trip, he saw a model of the soccer field he wanted to build, in Nairobi, Kenya. It was made of pea gravel. McCrath said the gravel “was BB size, an orange color and it was smooth as ice. You could play soccer on it in your bare feet.” He returned home determined to raise funds to build a similar field in Africa.

Recently, a piece of land was donated to Soccer Saves. It is north of Cape Town, South Africa. That is now the site for the field.

Along with the field, McCrath will build a community center with a clubhouse. The soccer field will “draw the teens,” he said, but the clubhouse will provide a place for disadvantaged teens to gather and be mentored by the humanitarian staff.

McCrath said he can understand the importance of a mentor, as he himself was a foster child.

McCrath has had many years of experience talking to teens. In college, he volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club of Southside Chicago. He spent 49 years as a college soccer coach, 38 of those at Seattle Pacific University. In addition, has directed Northwest Soccer Camps for 41 years.

Besides raising money for an important charity, Eastside FC Soccer Coach Dan Bubar said the tournament is also special to players.

“They get many touches (on the ball) and it is a great place to showcase their individual skills,” he said. “The timing for this tournament is perfect. Many premier, select and recreational registrations will have just been completed and this tourney will provide an opportunity to get your team involved in playing small-sided games.”

Dean added that “this event will bring our community together to help create awareness about another community — in Africa.”

Rose Marie Gai is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at

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